Black Friday gets all the hype, but merchants are counting on procrastinators to make the Saturday before Christmas a huge shopping day too.
“Super Saturday” is predicted to be the second-biggest sales day of the year for brick-and-mortar retailers, according to ShopperTrak. Last year, Super Saturday trumped Black Friday and was No. 1, with sales of more than $9 billion.
“It’s an important part of both the holiday season and the total year,” said Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak. “There’s always a group of people who purposely wait, as that is their strategy. Others just procrastinate.”
Retailers eager to pry every last dollar from consumers in the last few days before Dec. 25 are pulling out all the stops.
Kohl’s is opening for 170 straight hours until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve (that’s about 70 hours longer than last year’s round-the-clock shop-a-thon). Starting Saturday, Toys R Us said it would remain open until 2 a.m., and then opening for a 39-hour stretch until 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
For retailers with physical stores, these last few days are crucial to winning shoppers who are more inclined to shop online than ever before.
As the clock counts down, more people will have to brave jammed parking lots and thick crowds to avoid shipping problems and ensure that gifts are delivered on time.
That’s especially apparent this year, when sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday slumped slightly from 2014, while online sales for those two days shot up 18 percent, according to an Adobe report.
The holiday season is crucial to retailers, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual sales during that time. The National Retail Federation forecasts that sales during November and December will climb 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion, slightly below the 4.1 percent growth in the comparable period last year
Retailers will continue rolling out additional discounts in the next few days, analysts predict, especially those nervous after a recent string of sluggish months.
Retail sales rose 0.2 percent in November, after rising only 0.1 percent in October and falling 0.1 percent in September, according to the Commerce Department.
About 90 percent of shoppers still have gifts, decorations, food or other holiday-related products left to buy, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation this week. More than one-fifth said they were waiting for the best deals.
Britt Beemer, founder of America’s Research Group, said many shoppers are holding back because of a mix of thriftiness and a lack of excitement in the merchandise on offer.
According to his survey, 52 percent of consumers said there was nothing new in stores this season to tempt them. And about 27 percent said they planned to spend less than last year during the holidays.
“We have a situation where consumers have got dollars to spend, but ‘Will they spend it?’ is the big question,” Beemer said. “They have been holding back.”
That could be a big problem for retailers.
Already, some merchants have suffered from a frugal mind-set among shoppers, Beemer said. About two-thirds of Thanksgiving shoppers, for example, bought early-bird specials and nothing else. Shoppers willing to wait for better deals could push some sales into next week, he said.
Retailers are also grappling with unseasonably warm weather in some parts of the country that have cut demand for coats, sweaters and boots.
Last month, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren said in a call with analysts said “our lumps are clearly in the cold weather category.”
“You want to believe that it eventually is going to get cold.”